The ‘Saint’ of heart

Montiel adapts, directs his memoirs for the big screen

After brief careers as a hardcore punk musician and a male model, Dito Montiel published his memoir, “A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints” (2003). He has adapted the screenplay and directed the movie, opening next week in Bay Area theaters.His first novel, “The Clapper,” will be published next spring.

The Examiner: Why do you write?

Dito Montiel: I write because I guess I have to. I met Billy when I was 13 years old and he was looking for someone to be in his band. I said, ‘I don’t play anything.’ And he said, ‘You can play the guitar.’ And so I did. And from then on I always said I don’t care if I don’t know how to do something, I’m going to do it anyway.

Q: In writing a memoir, how do you avoid softening the truth?

A: Memoir is such an ugly word. This is about other people, the impressions they had on me. I’m in there, sort of watching it. For me, people have two different demeanors. Some people see things in a good way. I’ve always been a lucky person, in that I had a loving house, a crazy one, but a loving one. My sisters read my book and the way that they remember my family was that it was hell. In the book, things are probably a little bit nicer than they really were.

Q: The book is divided into short little chapters. How fast did you write?

A: I was just writing, just writing to write. Not thinking of a book. I wrote it pretty quick.You get into a crazy run, and boom! One page becomes two and then 20. I kinda write fast because I get obsessed and I have to finish things. I never stopped a story of one person in one night, because then he would be unfinished and I couldn’t sleep.

Q: How did you go about adapting the screenplay?

A: I met Robert Downey Jr., and the people that were going to make a movie with me, and they liked a movie called “The United States of Leland.” So I bought the script and I saw that there was a structure, and that scared the hell out of me. But then it was kind of fun because I like to tell a big story, but this was a whole bunch of little stories. A scene has to end, and then you’re telling a bigger story.

Why I Write: Dito Montiel

Age: 56

Birthplace: Queens, New York

Education: LIC high school

Favorite song, piece of music: Jesse Malin, “Brooklyn”

Biggest literary inspiration, author: Allen Ginsberg

Biggest literary inspiration, book: “On the Road,” by Jack Kerouac

Most memorable book from my childhood: “The Picture Book of Saints,” by Lawrence G. Lovasik

If I could only retain one book on a desert island, it would be: One with a lot of pictures. Or a book of survival.

Book I’ve read lately I’d recommend most: I don’t read at all. I love to read the New York Post.

Most meaningful line from any book or poem: “In art we try to make things perfect, because in life they so seldom are.”

— Woody Allen (Paraphrased, from “Annie Hall”)

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